comparing the philosophers and sufism\'s method about refinement and education

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Philosophers' educational method
A variety of ways have been recommended for reforming one's morals and refining the soul, and various methods have come into existence, one of which is the ~Socratic~ method. According to this, man must reform himself by way of his ~intellect~ and his own devising. A man should first of all find complete faith in the benefits of the purification of, and the harm of confusion in, the morals, and then, one by one, find the blameworthy qualities with the instrument of his intellect - like someone who wants to pick out the hairs from inside his nose one by one, or like a farmer who, by his own hand, pulls out the tares from the furrows of his land, or like someone who wants to clean his wheat of small stones and soil by his own hand - and then cleanse these bad qualities from the harvest of his being. According to this method, one must gradually remove moral depravities by patience, perseverance, careful reckoning and applied thought, and purify the gold of one's being from false coin. Perhaps it should be said that it is not possible for the intellect to acquit itself of this task.

~Philosophers~ seek to reform morality by thought and reckoning. For example, they say that ~purity~ and ~continence~ are the cause of man's ~honour~ and character in the eyes of people, and ~greed~ and ~avarice~ are the consequences of hardship and inferiority; or they say that knowledge is the consequence of power and ability, knowledge is like this and like that, knowledge is "the seal of the kingdom of ~Solomon~", knowledge is the light along man's path which illuminates the pitfalls in his way; or they say that ~envy~ and malevolence are spiritual sicknesses, from which evil consequences will result as far as society is concerned; and so on.

There is no doubt that this way is a correct way, and this means is a good means; but we are talking about the balance of the value of this means in comparison with any other means. Just as a car is, for example, a good means, but when it is compared to an airplane we must examine carefully the extent of its value.

First of all, we have no argument with the value of the way of the intellect as regards guidance, that is to say from the point of view of how far so-called intellectual reasoning reveals reality in the matter of ethics, how far it is true, and in conformity with the facts, and is not faulty and erroneous. We will only say this much, that there are countless philosophical schools of ethics and education, and this problem has still not passed beyond the boundaries of discussion and argument as far as reasoning is concerned.

sufism educational method
The ~Sufis~ are all in agreement when they say:

The leg of the reasoners is of wood;
A wooden leg is very infirm.

The mystics and people of the spiritual journey have recommended the way of love and fellowship in place of following the way of the intellect and reasoning. They say that one should find a perfect being and hang the halter of love for, and fellowship with, him round one's heart, since this is both less dangerous that the way of the intellect and reasoning, and also swifter. By way of comparison, these two paths are like the old-fashioned way of doing something by hand and the way of doing it by machine. The effect of the power of love and fellowship on the doing away with moral vices from the heart is similar to the effect of chemicals on metals; for example, an etcher removes what is unwanted on his plate by the application of strong acid, not by using a nail, or the point of a knife, or anything like that. However, the effect of the intellect in reforming moral evils is like the work of someone who wants to separate iron-fillings from dust by hand; how excruciating and troublesome that would be! If he had a powerful magnet to hand, perhaps he could separate them with one sweep. The force of love and fellowship gathers the vicious qualities like the magnet and castes them away. The mystics believe that love of, and fellowship with, purified and perfect individuals is like an automatic apparatus which gathers the vices together by itself and ejects them. If the state of being attracted finds the right object, it is one of the best states, and it is this which refines and bestows exceptional qualities.

Truly those who have taken this path want to reform their morality through the strength of love, and they have relied on the power of affection and fellowship.


attraction and repulsion of Imam Ali p.b.u.h- pages: 70to72


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